I agree with you that if "the only way you know this title/author's name is through engagement", then, indeed, merely name dropping these things suffices, and descriptive clues are unnecessary. The problem is that you have just declared this to be the case, without doing anything to establish it.Ike wrote: I agree that the Manfred Kuehn clue doesn't test whether someone has actually read Manfred Kuehn or just studied some names of Kant scholars, but there is no need to test such a distinction because on that clue because if you have heard of the name Manfred Kuehn, you must have engaged with Kant in some form. To me this kind of clue is one of those where "the only way you know this clue is by having engaged with the particular scholar or work cited, because they haven't come up in quizbowl at all, or incredibly infrequently, so it doesn't matter if I just name drop it here" clues. (I like to think of them as shibboleth clues.)
The example that you use below to try to justify such a claim is unfortunately quite ill-fated:
Inventing a hypothetical situation in which you beat a set of imaginary people who don't know the first clue to a question you didn't play in real life is not really what the word "empirical" means. Frances Yates (and her connection of Bruno to hermeticism) is name-dropped in the header text (i.e. the three summary paragraphs at the beginning) of the Wikipedia article on Giordano Bruno. I hope you enjoyed reading The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast, because all that reading is going to do for you is allow you to buzzer-race on the first clue against people who have spent two minutes on the internet, reading exactly the source most likely to be used by people our age who are learning rudimentary facts for the first time.As an example of this type of clue working well, I would have buzzed on that Giordano Bruno tossup on the first clue because I have read a bit about Bruno, and the introduction to my book The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast discusses Frances Yates quite a bit. So while it certainly is true that you aren't testing whether or not I have read Frances Yates, there is no need to do so, because a. - Frances Yates hasn't been populating all those Giordano Bruno tossups all those trendy players have been studying, and b. - that Yates clue can be is most likely learned by intellectually engaging with Bruno - which is what you are trying to reward anyway. So I think for the tossup on Bruno, the lead-in empirically and ideologically worked, and that it would be a mistake to try to argue "well that tossup didn't test whether or not you have read Frances Yates."
(I guess I should also re-iterate for the umpteenth time, since I appear to have been misunderstood on one point occasionally: I'd be fine with a lead-in that rewarded people for having read Yates. I'm not trying to claim that reading Yates on Bruno is inherently less valuable than reading Bruno himself. I'm saying that assuming that just name-dropping Yates out of the blue rewards some form of engagement is a suspect assumption.)
Frankly, I don't understand what either you or Yaphe are doing when you tell stories about how you, the people who have read a ton about Author X (primary and secondary material alike), would have buzzed on (and enjoyed) the clues in a tossup. Well, of course you would have! The point of writing well pragmatically is not gearing the questions towards people like you, who have done extensive reading. As a means of determining the first clue of each tossup, fine; but not the questions as a whole. The point is to start with the assumption that most people have limited engagement with any the subjects of hard answer-lines, and to try to tap into that specific limited knowledge for middle clues, so that the question plays well. This is why Yaphe's counterfactual to his Henry Adams question-- in which I hypothetically approve of a tossup on Henry Adams drawn entirely from incidents from Democracy-- is also absurd. I would never write nor approve of question like that, because I have no reason to expect enough people to have read that novel, nor to expect that there are deep layers of knowledge in the field about that novel that need to be distinguished.
The central point of agreement among those criticizing the ICT literature and philosophy seems to be: the answer-lines at ICT were on things people have engaged with intellectually, in real life, and things of which people have knowledge. However, the clues mostly did not succeed in tapping into that engagement or knowledge, because the clues were on things with which the players haven't engaged. Re-connecting the clues to what the field knows will produce better results. I, personally, have an ideological commitment to a more restrictive definition of "engagement" or "knowledge" than that favored by some of the other people posting in this thread, because I don't think "having heard of things" is as valuable as "having read things". This distinction is rejected by many in this conversation. So be it. If only the purely "pragmatic" changes I am suggesting happen in ICT, I'll still be a much more satisfied customer, and I think other people will be too.
Lastly, contra every other lit player who has posted in this thread, I actually find these questions great in the enjoyable sense. They are so much fun! It's the only tournament all year, where you get to play on a somewhat different style of question, and after the tournament is done, you get to go learn an incredible amount of content and figure out if you want to read some of these interesting sounding books.
Yes, I too enjoy going through the packets afterwards and looking up some of the books I hadn't heard of. And I too find Yaphe's choice of works for lead-ins consistently interesting, and am pleased with the results of this exercise, after I perform it. (Although, I have to say: given that we agree that the contents of most of these books are not explained, I'm not sure why ICT would get you more fired up about this than do other hard tournaments that draw on interesting works, unless just hearing titles gets you excited.) However, this dimension should be considered only after all the dimensions of the quizbowl questions functioning as quizbowl questions have been accounted for.
While it is perhaps tempting for me to respond in kind by calling you a "clone" of some outdated thinker as a means of lazily tarring you with guilt by association (as you are doing to me), I unfortunately can't think of a prominent intellectual who has propounded the value of name-dropping things without addressing their contents; so, I guess you're safe.I would hate to see the Mortimer Adler clones of the world ruin one of the last quizbowl bastions of unique experiences.